Businessman ‘cheated’ wife out of millions in divorce settlement
It was the case of the dishonest man getting away with it. That’s how the ex-wife saw it. Her ex-husband had lied and withheld information. He had perjured himself. Even the court had seen his actions as “fraudulent.” Despite right and wrong, and the alleged fairness of the court, the dishonest man had won.
When they were married, Charles and Alison Sharland—him 53, her 46—built a substantial fortune in computer software. The couple lived comfortably in London’s Wilmslow, Cheshire. Charles ran the business in Daresbury. After seventeen years of marriage, the Sharlands split in 2010.
The divorce proceedings ended with the couple entering a court agreement to split matrimonial assets. Charles would hold onto over sixty percent of the software company’s shares. Alison looked to receive the cash equal of 30 percent of the company’s shares. Charles walked away from the settlement with the company and almost $10 million. Alison put close to $18 million dollars in the bank. One might have thought that was the end of the story.
Imagine Alison’s surprise when she learned Charles planned to float the software company on the stock exchange. As the majority shareholder, Charles was looking at putting almost half a billion dollars in the bank. Not surprisingly, Alison felt her husband tricked her. Charles led her to believe that because she had made a full contribution, she would receive an equal share of everything.
Alison argued Charles used her stress over the separation to take advantage of her. If she had known the true worth of their software company she never would have agreed to the original settlement. Alison got a lawyer and took her husband to the appeals court with the intent of getting the agreement set aside.
Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals had good and bad news for Alison. In a majority vote of 2:1, the panel of judges found Charles guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation throughout his divorce proceedings. They believed he had misled his ex-wife about the company’s net worth and was even guilty of perjury.
The court then offered a collective so what. While they did not condone Charles’s dishonesty and non-disclosure, they also did not feel his actions had any material impact on the outcome of the divorce settlement. The judges decreed it was unlikely Alison would have received a different sum even if she’d known the company’s full worth.
If the case had been in the criminal courts, Charles wouldn’t have gotten away with perjury; however, things operate differently in family court. Charles did not dispute that he misled Alison, but he saw the appeals court’s decision as fair. Alison was not happy.
While Alison still walked away with 30% of company assets she could have gained a far vaster sum if she’d only known the truth sooner. Charles Sharland isn’t the only person who ever attempted to keep his assets hidden. If Alison’s attorney’s had done more research or if they had hired a private detective they may have uncovered the hidden assets before it was too late.